When highly sought-after linebacker Nolan Smith signed with Georgia on Dec. 19, 2018, Bulldogs fans, players and coaches were anxious to see what the IMG Academy standout would bring to the UGA defense. It’s only fall camp, but Smith’s play in practice has already earned him a fun nickname.

“I don’t know if you guys know it’s Shark Week, but Nolan Smith, we’re calling him Hammerhead now, because of the way he likes collision runs,” Lanning said of Smith during his press conference this week. “But there’s some really good competition; we’ve got some guys in there that are working really hard but at this point, you know that it’s still wide open.”

It’s no secret that coaches have blue-chip newcomers go through a “de-recruitment” process of sorts once they become college freshmen. It’s only natural that a 4- or 5-star recruit gets an inflated ego being recruited by college football’s most prominent coaches, but on the gridiron, stars don’t matter. Smith was a 5-star prospect and Lanning says the former No. 1 recruit handled his humbling well.

“One thing coming in with guys, you want to make sure that it’s not just about stars. I think coming to college is a humbling experience for any person, so Nolan handled that the right way. He’s really eager to learn, he’s extremely bright and smart,” Lanning said. “He’s one of those guys that signed the signing day papers and then the next day is like, ‘Coach, where’s my playbook at?’ That’s Nolan, and he’s great for our room, he motivates our guys, he plays really hard, and you can overcome a lot of young mistakes when you play hard. And that’s what’s exciting probably about Nolan.”